by Mike Andrew -
SGN Staff Writer
ProtectMarriage.com, the group that engineered the passage of Prop 8 in 2008 and is now defending its handiwork before the Supreme Court, is going broke, according to a new report by Reuters.
Federal tax records show the group running a $2 million deficit in its legal fund for 2011, the last year for which public records are available. The group is still $700,000 short in fundraising for its Supreme Court expenses, its lead attorney Andrew Pugno said.
'Unless the pace of donations starts to pick up right away, we could soon be forced over a financial cliff,' ProtectMarriage.com said in a fundraising e-mail to supporters earlier this month.
The group's lead outside counsel, Charles Cooper, is still working on the Supreme Court case, although he declined to comment on his financial arrangements.
WEARING THEM DOWN
The problem, according to Pugno, is the sheer doggedness of equality supporters, forcing his group to fight same-sex marriage for almost a decade, in court and out.
'I don't detect a decrease in enthusiasm,' he said. 'What I detect is a certain degree of fatigue after having to essentially fight this issue nonstop since 2004, when the mayor in San Francisco started issuing marriage licenses.'
Almost as soon as Prop 8 passed in 2008, Americans for Equal Rights (AFER) filed suit to strike it down. By the end of 2009, ProtectMarriage.com was $220,000 in the red.
Litigation was expensive, however. Cooper's firm billed the group $4.5 million in 2010 and total expenses came to $6.1 million, for a year-end deficit of $1.8 million.
By comparison, AFER reported a $2.7 million surplus at the end of March 2011. AFER outraised ProtectMarriage.com, but the Gay rights group also got a much better deal from its lawyers. Ted Olson and David Boies' law firms billed only $1.5 million during the trial year.
MORMONS BACK OFF
One explanation for ProtectMarriage's funding problems in the four years since Prop 8 passed is that the Mormon church has stepped back from its all-out opposition to marriage equality.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had been one of the most vocal Prop 8 backers, raising more than 1,000 donations from its stronghold in Utah for a total of $2.7 million, but the church came under fierce attack from equality supporters as a result. Image-conscious Mormon leaders now speak about the need to respect all individuals and have set up a website, www.mormonsandgays.org, to urge LGBT members to stay in the church.
Mormon fundraising for anti-Gay groups plummeted in the last election cycle. During the Referendum 74 campaign in Washington, for example, anti-equality forces netted just four donations from Utah, for a grand total of $197.50.
Donations to the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) also dropped significantly - by about 30% - in 2011.
According to HRC, NOM raised $6.2 million in 2011, compared with the $9.1 million it raised in 2010. And, according to the HRC, 'Just two donors were responsible for funding 75 percent of the anti-Gay group - the organization reported two donations of approximately $2.4 million each.'
According to tax documents, NOM paid nearly $375,000 to Frank Schubert, the ad guru who managed the Reject R-74 campaign.
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